Spinal cord injuries are difficult to repair due to the magnitude of the injury. The spinal column carries a vast network of nerves down the length of the abdomen, controlling most of the functions of the limbs. A traumatic injury, such as often occurs during a motor vehicle crash or from some recreational sport, such as diving, severs the bundle of nerves, leaving no means of control for the limbs.
Reconnecting those nerves has generally proved unsuccessful, leaving injured patients to suffer from paraplegia or quadriplegia. Medical research, however, has continued to look for new ways of helping these patients with innovative methods and therapies. A team of researchers recently announced that they have made the muscles of a cat’s leg move by use of very small implanted electrodes.
The hope is that this technology would one day lead to a person using a small, wearable control unit that would allow their paralyzed limbs to move. It could also be used for those who have suffered the loss of a limb due to amputation; such technology could be adapted to operate neuroprosthetics potentially employing the person’s thoughts from measurements of brain activity.
Medical research in both of these areas could eventually lead to significant improvements in the quality of life for many with spinal cord injuries. Even being able to get out of a bed and walk a short distance with the assistance of a walker could help reduce the risk of bed sores, which are a constant threat for those confined to a bed.